ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Mike Zigomanis just needed a quick breather before putting the Toronto Marlies on his back.
Zigomanis scored the overtime winner as the Marlies defeated the Abbotsford Heat 3-2 Wednesday night to advance to American Hockey League's Western Conference final.
After drawing a power play in overtime, Marlies coach Dallas Eakins called a timeout to make sure that Zigomanis would be ready to take the key face-off.
"He's a leader, he's our guy that is probably 75-80 per cent on face-offs over a whole season," Eakins said. "He's an excellent penalty killer, good on our power play and when the game’s on the line this year a lot of times he’s the guy who stepped up and done it for us."
The Toronto native spread the credit around when describing the goal.
"I won the draw and the guys did a good job scrumming for the puck," Zigomanis said. "We kind of shifted the box up top, opened up a lane, and me and Ryan Hamilton in front of the net had a screen and got a piece of (Nazem Kadri’s shot), deflected it down and it kind of just laid there for me and I whacked away at it. Nothing special. I'm not a goal scorer so if I get the odd one here and there I'm very happy."
The Marlies took the best-of-seven series 4-1 and will face either Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the next round.
"Every night this was a battle," Eakins said. "Even the games we won by three goals, I never thought they were more than a one-goal game. These teams were very evenly match, from skill level to work ethic. I was surprised we were able to do it in five games."
Toronto erased a 2-0 deficit with goals from Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin.
Paul Byron and Krys Kolanos scored for the Heat.
Ben Scrivens made 29 stops for the Marlies. Though he wasn't the difference maker he was in Game 4, he still made key stops that kept the Heat from taking the game over.
"There were times when we had them on the ropes and Scrivens was there," said Heat defenceman J.P. Testwuide. "Hats off to him."
Danny Taylor made 32 saves in Abbotsford's first ever overtime playoff game in the franchise's three-year history.
The Heat opened the scoring while short handed at 3:03 of the first period. Byron took a feed from Jon Rheault, went in on a partial breakaway and beat Scrivens high with a point-blank slapshot for his first goal of the playoffs.
During a delayed penalty sequence the Heat doubled their lead. Adam Estoclet's shot from the left side was kicked out by Scrivens right to Kolanos, who roofed it over the sprawling netminder at 13:30 for his fifth of the post-season.
The Marlies got on the board at 14:32 of the first. Hugh Jessiman levelled Jerry D'Amigo to the ice, but not before he slid the puck over to Gardiner. The defenceman's slapshot from the point hit the post and went in for his third of the post-season.
Though the shots were even for most of the second period the Heat seemed to carry the flow of the play. Byron and Dustin Sylvester each had point blank chances with around seven minutes to go in the period, but Scrivens turned both of them aside to keep his club within one.
"You don't want to let that team back into the series because they could knock you out in the first 10 minutes of a game — and that almost happened today," Zigomanis said.
The Marlies tied the game on the power play with two minutes to go in the second period. From behind the net Ryan Hamilton centred the puck to Frattin, and his one-timer shot squeaked through the pads of Taylor for his fifth of the playoffs.
Taylor made his best save of the game about two minutes in the overtime period. Kadri found himself in front of the Abbotsford crease with time, but his backhand attempt was snared by Taylor.
At 8:50 of overtime Jessiman was slapped with a high-sticking minor, giving the Marlies power play a fifth chance to work. Zigomanis converted the rebound for his third of the post season for the win.
"We had to remain aggressive and stay on our forecheck," Zigomanis said. "We did that, ended up drawing a penalty and scoring on it."
Toronto ended 2-for-5 on the power play.
"We had a very good penalty kill for the whole series," Testwuide said. "You could look at it like it wasn't good tonight, but I wouldn't say that. It's just the way it turns out. They're going to get their chances, and they just ended up burying them now instead of earlier."
Abbotsford was 0-for-24 on the power play over the five games of the series.
"For us special teams, not executing on the power play," said Heat captain Clay Wilson. "Tonight we got opportunities and didn't bury them but they did. That was kind of the story of the series."